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I MUST admit I still associate Champions Day with Newmarket and, although moving the big day to Ascot has been a relative success, I do profess to preferring the meeting at Headquarters.
In previous years some pretty tight favourites have been turned over at this meeting which has mainly been due to a culmination of really deep ground and the end of a long and arduous campaign.
The latter is probably even more pronounced this year with some of the best horses in training having to take their chance at the top of the racing tree in a shorter stretch of time, hence coming to the Berkshire track fresh this afternoon will be a distinct advantage.
There are no less than four favourites in the ante-post lists at 7/4 or shorter, with two of those being odds-on and I would venture to suggest that at least half of those market leaders are likely to be turned over here.
STRADIVARIUS didn’t have a hard time in the Arc and as such deserves to be odds-on for the Long Distance Cup due off at the head of the card at 1.40.
Anything around the even-money mark is worth a stab at and should head all combination wagers on the meeting if indeed that is the way that you like to shape your bets.
Dangers include mud lark Morando (no certainty to see out the extra yardage) and the mare Monica Sheriff who will relish the return to deep ground and could hit the frame at massive odds.
Palace Pier is rightly considered to be the very best miler in Europe following wins in the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Jacques Le Marois and he has been kept fresh specifically for the QEII Stakes at 3.05 and possibly a tilt at the Breeder’s Cup Mile at Keeneland.
But simply on grounds of value I want to oppose him and ROSEMAN (e/w) at huge odds. At the beginning of the season he was regarded by Roger Varian as a genuine Group One performer, but has had a limited chance to show his true talent.
He was far from disgraced on good to soft ground in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and then found the ground way too quick for him in the Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly.
This set-up should play more to his strengths, as will running on this straight track, and he only has to improve a few pounds to put himself on the rostrum here and odds of 33/1 are simply way too big for this attractively made four-year-old.
The Sprint Cup due off at 1.55 has another tight favourite in the form of DREAM OF DREAMS (nb) and following his victories in the Hungerford Stakes and the Sprint Cup at Haydock Park it is hard to oppose this rejuvenated four-year-old who has in a contradictory way become more of a man since being gelded!
The main danger to the Sir Michael Stoute trained charge could come from Starman who is making rapid progress for Ed Walker and he looked to have a fair bit in hand when landing the Garrowby Stakes at Newcastle.
He will need another step forward here, but that is highly likely and the form of that success has been cemented since then.
The big handicap on the card, the Balmoral at 4.15, looks wide open despite the claims of the unexposed favourite Rae and victory for him would come as no surprise, but in a such a wide open sprint, ALTERNATIVE FACT strikes me as being the each-way value in this big field handicap.
At his best when the mud is flying, he showed that he remains at the top of his game in a couple of class two handicaps at York and Haydock Park.
A small improvement on his close up third to Sir Busker in the Silver Hunt Cup would give him every chance here and I shall be looking at odds of around 20/1 about the six-year-old gelding.
The feature race itself, the Champion Stakes at 3.40, has John Gosden’s Mishriff at the head of the market, and while his chance is rightly respected, I am again going to go out on a limb and have an each-way play at a double-figure price on PYLEDRIVER (NAP).
He was an impressive winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at the track and hugely impressive in landing the Great Voltigeur thereafter.
Connections simply ran him in the wrong race when choosing to go the St Leger — I fancy he would have won the Arc — and with his favoured soft ground this looks the perfect make-up for him even though an extra quarter of a mile would have been better.
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